I was mistaken; Florida apparently still allows smoking in bars, but whether or not it does, the punks are doing plenty of it. Apparently the first show I attended on Friday had a very low jerk quotient, because I didn't see (or smell) a single person smoking, but such was not the case today. In fact I ended up missing one of my favorite bands because the prospect of hanging out for a several hours in a truly vile atmosphere (lack thereof, actually, if we're taking "atmosphere" to imply "breathable air") was just too much to bear.
So why didn't I simply step outside and wait there until it was time for the band to go on? Well, it's not that simple. Some of the Fest venues were so crowded that you had to wait in line for an hour or more before enough people left and you could be allowed in. And in the case of the popular bands, nobody was leaving and you just weren't getting in. About a hundred of us listened to Dear Landlord from outside on the street, despite having waited nearly an hour to get in. I missed my friend Justin's band the Ringers because the line to get into Common Grounds was held up by painfully slow ID checks. And although we got into the Market Street Tavern in plenty of time to see the Copyrights, the prospect of three hours of not breathing prompted me to give up and leave, which I kind of regret, as I expect it was a completely awesome show. But my lungs are still thanking me.
I actually like both Gainesville and Florida, but there are a few backward aspects, the smoking policy being one of them, that are more than a bit maddening. So too is the way the town is laid out, in old-fashioned drive-everywhere-wasting-massive-amounts-of-gas fashion. Naturally traffic is a massive clusterfuck for several hours every morning and evening; despite Gainesville being a sleepy little college town of fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, I've seen gridlock to rival that of New York City.
Another exciting adventure: looking for a supermarket that sold actual food fit for human consumption. Okay, this wasn't the hardest thing in the world; it simply required joining the masses of carbound lemmings and driving several miles out from the city center (there's no supermarket within walking distance) into Walmart land. In fact, I visited an actual Walmart, under the mistaken impression that in addition to cheap TVs, tires, geegaws and doodads, that great American institution also sold food. In fact, I'd swear the one my cousin dragged me to in Northern Michigan had a large grocery department.
Not the one in Gainesville, however. Well, they did have something vaguely resembling a grocery department, but edible food? Of the non-packaged and processed, non-empty calories and non-carcinogenic variety? Absolutely zero. I was looking specifically for fresh produce, i.e., fruits and vegetables. Not too much to ask for in a grocery store, you'd think? In Walmart, it apparently is. They don't even have a produce section. It's a wonder the entire town hasn't come down with scurvy.
Eventually, after another hour or so of destroying the atmosphere and driving a few more species to extinction, I did find another supermarket with a fresh food section, and really, it's time I stopped complaining about Gainesville now, because for the most part I'm still happy to be here at the Fest, and even happier to have spent most of the day at the best venue by far, a bike co-op called the Kickstand, well away, but still walking distance from downtown, where there were no ID checks, smokers were exiled to the outdoors where they belonged, and nearly every band was good to great.
Some highlights: Delay, The Max Levine Ensemble, Tin Armor, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Brook Pridemore and Two Funerals, but seriously, there was almost nothing there that wasn't worth watching. And although the place was clearly crawling with vegans and bike punks, none of the didacticism and bombast sometimes associated with those groups was in evidence. Just a nice comfortable scene on a nice sunny day. Ryan Delay said, "There's really no reason to leave here," and I wish I hadn't.
There was meant to be a 2 am house show featuring Spoonboy, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and Wingnut Dishwasher Union (I met the alleged brains behind the latter operation, and he seemed pleasant enough, though I see from his Myspace that he believes "Any good punk is at least part hippie," and we might have had to have a little discussion about that idea), but when I arrived at the appointed reference there were three police cars with lights a-flashing, hundreds of punk rockers milling around in the residential backstreets, and little if any evidence of music going on. Perhaps I should have stuck around and possibly got arrested, something I haven't done in quite a while now, but seeing one other Fester being led off in handcuffs reminded me that I had never particularly enjoyed it back in the days when getting arrested was a fairly regular activity of mine. Might have made for a more interesting blog post, though.
Anyway, it's now nearly 4 am, and that's including the extra hour gained by the end of Daylight Savings Time. A busy day awaits tomorrow, including the Used Kids, the Monikers, the Unlovables, the Ergs, and a bunch of country punk bands, all of which will probably be subject to unpredictable revision. On the other hand, maybe I'll just stay in and watch 12 more hours of MSNBC, CNN and Fox coverage of the next-to-last day of the election campaign. Well, probably not, but I seem to have developed an unhealthy fascination with their round-the-clock natterings. I mean, it's not like I still need any help deciding who I'm going to vote for, and it's even less likely that any of the candidates will be calling on me for my expertise, so what exactly do I hope to learn by watching this stuff, other than that I really, really don't want to spend the next four or eight years listening to John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Oh, one last Festly tale: apparently my criticisms of Dillinger 4's unfunny comedy act have reached the ears of Paddy, who followed up his normal "I love cocaine" rant with some version of "Fuck Larry Livermore" which may or may not have enlivened proceedings; I don't know because of course I wasn't there, having several more interesting things to attend to. But having just been told about it by someone who was, I was standing in line outside another venue when Paddy himself came up and got into a long and mostly incoherent conversation with the guy standing in front of me.
I actually didn't know who it was, having mistaken him for a particularly unfortunate street tramp, and I have no idea if he recognized me. But some kid rolling a joint up the street did, after a fashion: "Yo, dude, you're Shawn Stern, aren't you? Don't lie, I know you are, you own BYO Records! I love that label, can I shake your hand?" And that, my friends (I told you I'd been seeing too much of Liar McCain!) was when I called a wrap on Day Two of The Fest.